Southeast Utah’s Valley Of The Gods is a portion of the San Juan River Valley just east of the hamlet of Mexican Hat. The portion called “Valley Of The Gods” is an area of red buttes and red dirt valley floor that is drained by Cedar Mesa’s Lime Creek, as well as a whole lot of other unnamed washes. It’s public land, administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and has a popular, though somewhat rough (for two wheel drive sedans), 16 mile loop road through the middle of it. You can start either from the main east-west highway, US 163, or the Cedar Mesa highway, Utah 261.
Looming above the Valley Of The Gods is Cedar Mesa itself. The sheer cliffs at the south end of the mesa rise straight up from the valley floor for about 1,000 feet. To the far west you can make out the silhouettes of some of the famous red sandstone buttes of Monument Valley, along the horizon on the Navajo Nation.
This day I drove the Valley loop road from west to east. The western end of the road is usually in the best condition, with flat to gentle grades. With the cold weather after the most recent snows, the road was slightly muddy in places, snowpacked in others. A road grader had smoothed it out not long before, so it was as good as it gets. I don’t recommend driving it in a low clearance sedan, regardless of the season, although some people do (and some of those wish they hadn’t). When the road is impassible for all but four-wheel-drive vehicles, I tell people: “If you’re not a god, stay out of Valley Of The Gods until the road dries out”.
At about the middle of the loop road is some of the most spectacular scenery, because you’re close to some of the taller buttes, and also the cliffs along the flanks of Cedar Mesa. It’s also where the road goes up and down somewhat steeply for short pitches, and where the shadiest parts are. Meaning the most snow and ice, or mud when it thaws out, during the winter season.
All in all, Valley Of The Gods is fun, interesting, scenic, has free dispersed camping, no crowds, and is free to enter. Quite a deal.
Photo Location: Valley Of The Gods, between Bluff and Mexican Hat, San Juan County, Utah.
Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg